Retired Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz, Houston native and beloved priest, dead at 75 – Houston Chronicle

Retired Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz served at six different parishes throughout his career as a pastor in Houston, and left every single one better than he found it. Now, the church community is mourning the loss of the bishop, who died Tuesday. He was 75.

“There is real sadness for us at the death of Bishop Sheltz,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said. “He was such a kind and generous man, a faithful priest. Whenever I asked him to do anything, he always said ‘yes’ and did so cheerfully. He was a great model of a diocesan priest, conscientious. He mirrored Christ very much.”

Sheltz was born in Houston on April 20, 1946, and dedicated his life to serving the city through the church. He was a proud graduate of St. Thomas High School and attended the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John Morkovsky in 1971.

Sheltz was known as a priest who could be counted on to keep a church steady in turbulent times, according to Father Tom Rafferty, Vicar of Clergy at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. It’s why he was sent to serve at six Houston-area parishes throughout his career in the archdiocese.

His last role as a pastor was at St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Woodlands, where he served between 1999 and 2007, before he left the parish to take on a variety of administrative roles at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. By the time he retired in June 2021, he was the second-in-command to Cardinal DiNardo.

Sheltz’s role as a high-ranking archdiocese leader brought him in close proximity to the revitalized attention nationwide to allegations of child sex abuse at the hands of clergy. He was there as law enforcement combed the archdiocese headquarters for evidence related to convicted priest Manuel La Rosa-Lopez. He also handled letters from a woman who accused former vicar general Frank Rossi of forming an inappropriate relationship with her. Houston police investigated a sexual assault allegation against Rossi but a Harris County grand jury declined to indict him.

He came face-to-face with an allegation of his own when a woman accused him of molesting her as a girl in 1971, according to an anonymous letter sent in 2019 to church officials. The archdiocese dismissed the allegation as false and a form of blackmail to keep a transferred priest in his clergy assignment.

Sheltz filled in for DiNardo as the cardinal recovered from a stroke and during that time, he handled an allegation against a dismissed priest, Jesus Suarez, accused of raping and impregnating a girl in South America.

Rafferty, who took over for Sheltz at St. Anthony of Padua, said Sheltz was instrumental in making St. Anthony of Padua the “thriving parish” it is today.

“Archbishop [Joseph] Fiorenza would call him and say ‘there’s a parish that has great opportunities and some challenges’ and he would send Father George to serve at these parishes, and every place that he left would be set up for success. I experienced that firsthand at St. Anthony of Padua, and I so much benefitted from his good work and insight,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty remembers Sheltz as a “holy but happy priest” who loved working with the teenagers at St. Thomas High School, where Rafferty first met Sheltz as a student. Sheltz would eventually recommend Rafferty as his successor at St. Anthony of Padua, and continued to mentor the younger priest after he left.

“He knew when there was time to be serious and he did that very well, and he also knew when there was time to have fun,” Rafferty said. “He had confidence in me and that meant a lot to me — he would give me constructive criticism but it was always smart and chartiable. He was a brother priest, not just a boss.”

He leaves behind a sister and many nieces and nephews, whom he loved dearly, Rafferty said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Nicole Hensley contributed to this story


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